Friday, December 20, 2013

Health Care and Christmas 2013

Over time, people often forget the meaning of Christmas unless they are reminded through various ways, including exposure through media, religious organizations, holiday cards, and many other types of contact. For Believers, the reason to celebrate seems pretty obvious, but it really can be easy to take your focus off the main purpose of this time of year. When parties and presents and priorities get a bit overwhelming, the forest of activity can appear to be much larger than the individual tree of liberty and freedom. The Spirit of the Season can get lost in the sensationalism of the moment.

It’s really okay to be involved in various holiday events like parties, concerts and events, and shopping for gifts. There is no harm in doing those things, but they can get too demanding for your time and treasure. However, when the Christmas rush gets out of control, it’s time to take a step back and look at the importance of the true celebration of the event. Not all holidays are created equal. Christmas is one that mandates special attention.
Let’s take a look at how this holiday came about, starting about two thousand years ago. That seems like a very long time to look back, but when compared to eternity, those millennia are a brief passage. Mankind has been the same before and since, and the need for a relationship with a divine being has been the driving force since the first man and woman were created. Some people recognize that desire, but sadly many have and still do not. Fortunately, there is a plan that was laid down before the foundation of the earth, and all you have to do is accept it.

According  to the New Testament Bible, the book of Luke—a well known physician of the day living in what was to eventually be known as the Holy Land—penned words that have been taken to be the real story of the beginning of Christmas. More than the hymns and carols, more than the porcelain figurines in a crèche, and beyond the understanding of most of the world, the events unfold in a time of great pain and struggle. Here are the divinely inspired phrases announcing the birth of Emmanuel—God with Us, from Luke 2:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Seemingly a simple tale of a young girl and her husband who gave birth to a baby in uncertain circumstances, yet the events that unfold here tell of the single greatest event in the history of mankind—a deliverer who would change the course of history forever, and a Savior that would one day give His life for the redemption of all mankind past, present, and future.
Seem impossible or too difficult to believe? To most people, yes. But to those who believe, the Christmas season is all about hope. The consequences of what you do on earth affect what happens after you are gone, not only for you personally, but for all those with whom you come in contact. Christmas is a wonderful time of year, and there are any number of fantastic opportunities for you to experience—music, food, gifts, friendship, and family.

And you know, it actually is better to give than receive. You won’t regret it. Be blessed by your generosity, even if it’s not expressed in monetary or tangible ways. Give those gifts that cannot be bought. Spend time with those who need an extra dose of good cheer. Show love and kindness to those who are lonely at this time of year. Seek to brighten the lives of those who could use encouragement. Pray for those who are having hard times. Share the news of the Christ child, and how He can give them hope, too.
It’s certainly nice to give and receive gifts, and to have a good time with family and friends at this time of year. But by all means, do not forget the Reason for the Season. Celebrate Christmas with hope and a new passion. Merry Christmas!

Until next time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Health Care and Germs

Are you a germaphobe? There are some individuals who have a traumatic fear of germs, and they freak out at the mere thought of coming into contact with any kind of germs. Are you one of those individuals who has germaphobia, or are you someone who really doesn’t think that much about germs? Many people have an awareness of coming into contact with germs, but especially during the winter months.

According to the San Francisco Department of Health (SFDOH), germs are tiny microorganisms that exist all around us and are invisible to the human eye. There are many different types of germs. Most are not harmful, but some cause infectious diseases. There are vaccines to prevent some and medicines to treat others, but there is a limited number of vaccines and medicines for every kind of infectious disease. It is important to know about germs and infectious diseases, and simple ways to avoid getting and spreading them.

As reported by ZocDoc, according to research undertaken by Kimberly-Clark Professional, a subsidiary of the company that produces hygiene-related products like Kleenex and Huggies, the gas pump is the public place people are most likely to encounter germs. The study found that a whopping 71 percent of gas-pump handles are “highly contaminated” with the germs most likely to make you sick. Other bacteria-infested locales included corner mailboxes (68 percent highly contaminated), escalator rails (43 percent) and ATM buttons (41 percent).
To eliminate germs, a good start is washing your hands before and after gassing up your car or touching any of the other items likely to carry germs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it takes about 20 seconds of scrubbing to complete an effective hand-washing. If you don’t have soap and water available, a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is a decent substitute, but won’t eliminate certain types of germs.

Germs have favorite places to live, preferred ways to travel, and if they are harmful, their own unique ways of causing disease. Germs can live in or on dirt, water, countertops, your skin, your intestines, and in many other places around you. Some germs can survive on their own while others prefer living in people or animals. Some germs live only in hot areas of the world while others live only in cold areas. When germs find a place that is good for them, they multiply and set up a home for themselves, according to the SFDOH.
According to Fitness Magazine, avoiding infection is fairly easy. Basic hygiene (read: washing your hands before eating and after going to the bathroom) gets rid of most bacteria. Those who have to take greater precautions include the elderly and anyone with a suppressed immune system. Plus, you don't want to go overboard with the anti-germ activity: There are lots of "good" bacteria out there that help keep the "bad" germs away. "The helpful microorganisms overwhelmingly outnumber the harmful ones," says Jack Brown, PhD, a professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. "Removing a large proportion of the good bacteria gives the bad germs a chance to increase and potentially become harmful." More info about germ hotspots can be found at this website: .

According to the SFDOH, germs spread in different ways. To catch an infectious disease, you first need to be exposed to a harmful germ. Then it needs to get on or into your body and act in its won unique way to cause disease. Your body is usually good at fighting infections; not everyone who is exposed to germs gets sick, but some do. Here are the most common ways to be exposed:

·         Touching. Some germs live in body fluids like mucus, pus, and stool. Even the invisible drops released when people talk, cough, or sneeze can carry germs. Touching a contaminated surface or object, then touching your eyes, nose, mouth, a cut, or other opening in the body, can lead to an infectious disease.
·         Eating or drinking. Some germs exist in food and untreated water. Unwashed fruits and vegetables, and foods not properly cooked or kept at the right temperature, may carry harmful germs.
·         Breathing. Some germs spread through the air. When someone coughs, sneezes, or talks they can release germs. When harmful germs are inhaled, they can cause illness.
·         Getting bitten. Animals can carry and spread infectious diseases to people. Bites from wild animals, pets, or even a small animal like a bat or insect can cause illness. Even if the animal doesn't look sick, it may carry harmful germs.
Infectious diseases are also spread through sexual contact, during pregnancy from a mother to an unborn child, from sharing needles, blood transfusions, and through other ways. More information can be located at this site: .
If you are a germaphobe, according to leading expert Jan Heering, germ phobia is very common among the population and can circumscribe the daily activities of the sufferer to an abnormal extent. This is still a prevalent problem in today's society, and can cause unwanted distress among the victims. Fear of germs can be defined as a "persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of germs."
Germ phobia is identified by a number of names, such as spermatophobia, verminophobia, and fear of germs. The problem is so grave that it can have negative impacts on the social life of a person. The nagging problem can snatch a person's sanity and detach him from his loved ones.  The symptoms for germ phobia incorporate rapid breathing, sweating, irregular heartbeat, feelings of dread, nausea, shortness of breath and many more.

Actually the fear of germs can grip a person to such great extent, that the phobic may not eat food, not bathe, and not drink beverages; and the individual may confine himself/herself to a single room and a world of his/her own. Fear of germs can range from a relatively mild stage to an acute stage. More info can be found at this website: .
You can help stop the spread of germs, according to the National Institutes of Health, by:
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Sneeze or cough into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Cleaning your hands often - always before you eat or prepare food, and after you use the bathroom or change a diaper.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Much more material can be found at this site: .

Some germs can be bad for you if you don’t take the time to engage in preventive measures designed to keep you from getting sick. Much of this involves using common sense and very practical ways to eliminate the exposure to germs. However, if you do get sick, see your doctor. Even the very safest people encounter germs and get ill. Remember to always wash your hands as a precautionary measure, too. It just is the right thing to do, and it doesn’t take much time. Be careful. And Germaphobes: learn to relax a little.

Until next time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Health Care and Lightning

Do you have a fear of thunderstorms? Many people do; it’s called astraphobia—the fear of thunder and lightning. Astraphobia can cause some symptoms that are similar to those of other phobias, as well as some that are unique. Sweating, shaking and crying may occur during a thunderstorm or even just before one begins. You may seek constant reassurance during the storm. Symptoms are often heightened when you are alone, according to this website: .

Additionally, many people with astraphobia seek shelter beyond normal protection from the storm. For example, you may hide under the covers or even under the bed. You may go to the basement, an inside room (such as a bathroom) or even a closet. You may close the curtains and attempt to block out the sounds of the storm.

Another fairly common symptom is obsession with weather forecasts. You may find yourself glued to the Weather Channel during the rainy season or tracking storms online. You may develop an inability to go about activities outside your home without first checking the weather reports. In extreme cases, astraphobia can eventually lead to agoraphobia, or fear of leaving your home.
However, the chances of getting struck by lightning are remote, according to the National Geographic Society. The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. Lightning is a giant discharge of electricity accompanied by a brilliant flash of light and a loud crack of thunder. The spark can reach over five miles (eight kilometers) in length, raise the temperature of the air by as much as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (27,700 degrees Celsius), and contain a hundred million electrical volts. Plus, it can happen at any time of the year, even in snowstorms.

Lightning can kill people. Over 4,000 people in the US have been killed by lightning since 1959. Lightning can also cause cardiac arrest. Injuries range from severe burns and permanent brain damage to memory loss and personality change. About 10 percent of lightning-stroke victims are killed, and 70 percent suffer serious long-term effects. About 400 people survive lightning strikes in the U.S. each year.  Much more info about this topic can be found at this website: .

How do you get struck by lightning? Initially this seems like a fairly straightforward question, according to this website: . As it turns out, there are several ways a person can be struck by lightning, and the type of strike dictates the impact it can have on your body.

--Direct strike - a cloud-to-ground lightning strike hits you or something you're holding, like a golf club, dead-on instead of reaching the ground.
--Side flash - lightning strikes something close to where you are standing and then jumps from that to you.

--Contact potential - while you're touching something, like a fence-post or a tree, lighting strikes that object and the current travels from the object through the point of contact into your body.
--Step voltage - you're sitting with your feet together in front of you, knees up and rump settled on the ground near a spot where a cloud-to-ground lightning strike hits. As the lighting current disperses, it travels through your body by entering one point, say your joined feet, and exiting another, your rear end.

--Surge voltage - while you're using some type of electrical appliance or a telephone, lighting strikes the source of power or network connected to the device and you receive a shock.
The worst kind of lightning experience is a direct strike - statistically, it's the most fatal. Being hit by a side flash or through contact potential are the next in the level of severity, with step voltage third and surge voltage last. Basically, the amount of current and voltage going through your body lessens with each of these types of strikes. If you're a victim of a direct strike, the full impact of the lightning courses through your body. In the other scenarios, the intensity is lessened because some of the energy is dispersed elsewhere. The circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems are most commonly affected when a person is struck by lightning:

--Circulatory: Reportedly, the majority of fatalities resulting from direct strikes are due to cardiac arrest. Ironically, were someone nearby with an automatic external defibrillator, to administer another electric shock to the heart, the victim might survive.
--Respiratory: The greatest threat to the respiratory system is paralysis. Artificial respiration is required so the victim won't die from lack of oxygen.

--Nervous: When the central nervous system is affected, a number of side effects can occur such as dementia, amnesia, temporary paralysis, impaired reflexes, memory gaps and anxiety or depression.
According to the National Weather Service, and as seen at this website:, here are some tips to stay safe from lightning:

What You Need to Know
·         NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
·         If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
·         When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
·         Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.
Indoor Lightning Safety

·         Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
·         Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
·         Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
·         Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.
Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips

·         If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:
·         Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
·         Never lie flat on the ground
·         Never shelter under an isolated tree
·         Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
·         Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
·         Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)
Lightning is dangerous, no matter when or where. Make sure you practice extreme safety when you could be caught in a situation where lightning may be present. Although you may never be struck by lightning, don’t put yourself in a position where you may be the next story on the six o’clock news because you did get struck.

Until next time.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Health Care and Anxiety

Do you ever get nervous or anxious about something? Have you felt ill at ease in certain circumstances or during some particular situations in life? Everyone does from time to time; but if you are constantly in a state of anxiety, you may be susceptible to feelings that go beyond the typical anxiousness just due to lack of awareness or uncertainty. Anxiety is a clinical form of fear. And, it can be harmful not only to your mental health but also your physical wellbeing.

In the 1970’s a movie called High Anxiety was released. This is Mel Brooks' spoof of over ten Alfred Hitchcock classics--including Psycho, Vertigo, and The Birds. Brooks played a renowned Harvard psychiatrist with a concealed fear of heights, or High Anxiety. His character in the movie takes over as the newest director of the PsychoNeurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous. Although the film was not well-received by critics, it picked up a 1978 Golden Globe nomination for best picture and landed Brooks a nomination for best actor.
Contrary to comedic cinematic emphasis, true anxiety is no laughing matter. People who suffer from it also contend with some potentially very serious health concerns and mental illness issues. According to, one of 40 million Americans have been derailed by what psychiatrists call “anxiety disorders.” It’s a broad medical diagnosis that includes several distinct categories:

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, which consists of intrusive thoughts (obsessions) combined with repetitive behaviors (compulsions), such as excessive hand washing, that the sufferer performs to avoid the obsessive thoughts.
Panic disorder refers to recurring episodes of intense physical fear, without an obvious or immediate source of fear. These episodes, also called anxiety attacks, are commonly characterized by heart palpitations and may be accompanied by chest pains. It might also be difficult to breathe, and you may feel like you are choking (symptoms that can make the situation even more frightening and further ratchet up anxiety).

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) follows a severe traumatic event that threatens actual harm.
Social anxiety disorder describes the condition of people who suffer overwhelming anxiety when faced with everyday social interactions.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a catchall category that describes any chronic anxiety or exaggerated worry that lacks an obvious cause.
While these diagnoses, symptoms and distinctions sound clear-cut on paper, in practice they are anything but. In part, this is because separating the typical from the pathological isn’t always easy. The human brain, it seems, is hardwired to worry even under the best of conditions. More details can be found at this website: .

Even the job market is still suffering some very anxious moments.  In fact, anxiety among American workers has reached a fever pitch. According to a new Washington Post, the Miller Center poll suggested more than six in 10 workers are scared of losing their jobs due to the weak economy—the highest level since the 1970s. The poll also finds 48% feel less financially secure than they felt over the past years ago, the report finds. One in three say they “worry a lot” about losing their jobs—another record high. The Post reports that, “Job openings are low, hires are low, consumer confidence is low; we are at the lowest labor force participation rate since March 1978. Confidence would be higher if more people were participating in the labor force and that is why more people are worried.” Anxiety is certainly a driving force in the labor market.
If you are the parent of a child that exhibits anxiety, you can help him or her develop the skills and confidence to overcome fears so that they don’t evolve into phobic reactions. The following steps will guide you in helping your child deal with common fears and anxieties, according to .

--Recognize that the fear is real. As trivial as a fear may seem, it feels real to the child and it is causing him to feel anxious and afraid. “Being able to talk about fears can help,” says Katharina Manassis, MD, author of Keys to Parenting Your Anxious Child. “Words often take some of the power out of emotion; if you can give the fear a name it becomes more manageable. As with any negative feeling, the more you talk about it, the more it becomes less powerful.”
--Never belittle the fear as a way of forcing the child to overcome it. Telling a child, “Don’t be ridiculous! There are no monsters in your closet!” may get him to go to bed, but it won’t make the fear go away. However, don’t cater to fears. If your child doesn’t like dogs, don’t cross the street deliberately to avoid one. This will reinforce that dogs should be feared and avoided.

--Teach the child how to rate fear. If your child can visualize the intensity of the fear on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest, he may be able to “see” the fear as less intense than first imagined. Younger children can think about how “full of fear” they are, with being full “up to my knees” as not so scared, “up to my stomach” as more frightened, and “up to my head” as truly petrified.
--Teach coping strategies. Try these easy-to-implement techniques. Using you as “home base,” the child can venture out toward the feared object, and then return to you for safety before venturing out again. The child can also learn some positive self-statements, such as “I can do this” and “I will be OK,” which he can say to himself when he feels anxious. Relaxation techniques are helpful as well, including visualization (of floating on a cloud or lying on a beach, for example) and deep breathing (imagining that the lungs are balloons and letting them slowly deflate).

The key to resolving fears and anxieties is to overcome them. More details about helping people who suffer from anxiety can be found at the High Anxieties website.
Many individuals use prayer and meditation to seek relief from anxiety. Belief in a personal God goes a long way to help you. According to Christianity Today magazine, General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, which reportedly affects about 3 percent of the U.S. population, is characterized by frequent, constant worry with little or no cause. A GAD sufferer will generally bear a daily burden of anxiety not tied to any specific threat. Through no choice of your own, you live in a state of anxiety that is largely disconnected from the reality of our otherwise normal circumstances.

The National Institute of Mental Health reported on a study that found women are 60 percent more likely than men to experience an anxiety disorder over their lifetime. Perhaps the higher frequently is due to women's desire to control certain aspects of their lives; perhaps it lives in the same gap everyone does, between expectation and reality.

Either way, an anxious life is a hard one, and the less you talk about it, the more isolated you may feel. The truth is, though, that while healthy anxiety can breed creativity, unhealthy anxiety will kill it. Unhealthy anxiety demands perfection, and creativity can never flourish in an environment where fear of failure is the guiding motive. Living in unhealthy anxiety can paralyze you and draw you into unfair comparison, envy, and fear.
Healthy anxiety, though, can remind you constantly and fruitfully of your joyful dependence on and confidence in God as a Believer. When you feel fear, you can allow God's good grace to draw you to Him and be reminded of His sufficiency in all things. You don't need to draw a direct connection between your spiritual health and your experience of anxiety when you trust God to use your anxiety for good, according to the website .

If you or someone you care about is experiencing issues with anxiety that appear to be ongoing with no relief, then do the right thing and seek professional medical, mental, and spiritual help from a counselor, health care provider, minister, or someone in a role that is trained to deal with this type of health issue. Don’t prolong any unnecessary mental or physical problems related to anxiety as it only proceeds to get worse over time without the attention it deserves. Any stigma associated with anxiety can be addressed as needed, but take care of yourself or those you love so the end result of overcoming anxiety can be done sooner rather than later.

Until next time.